Looking at the opening moves by the Republican House leadership as they exercise their new majority, you have to wonder how serious they are about deficit reduction.
Under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, they approved rules requiring that all new spending increases must be offset by cuts in other programs.
Fine – except they exempted the cost of future tax cuts. Tax cuts over the past decade, coming at a time when we were fighting two wars, are a huge factor in the deficit monster (along with the cost of those wars). So what do they do? Set the stage for still more tax cuts, and pretend it won't affect the deficit.
(As the New York Times pointed out, they also passed rules that “would permit repeal of the health care legislation, which was estimated to save the government more than $140 billion over 10 years, without any requirement that those revenue losses be made up elsewhere.”)
Of course, this will just add to the enormous pressure to cut health, social service and education spending, which is the overwhelming concern of a broad spectrum of Jewish groups as the 112th Congress gets down to business.
You'll know the new Congress is serious about attacking the deficit when they stop proposing new tax cuts and stop pretending that the astronomical cost of running two wars for many years isn't a huge part of the problem.
I understand why Jewish groups that dread big cuts to vulnerable human needs programs don't speak out on these two issues. I understand why Democrats, worried about being painted as tax-and-spend liberals and weak on defense in the next election, treat them as radioactive.
But ignoring these fundamental questions plays into the hands of those who seem bent on taking only symbolic swipes at the deficit – and doing that on the backs of some of the nation's most vulnerable citizens.
Lest this be seen as a partisan rant, let me add that I don't see the Democrats doing much better on the issue of finding a sensible, socially responsible way to claw out of the debt hole we've dug for ourselves.
As they say, do the math.
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